Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ateneo Blue Eagles Game 12 Outlast

Ateneo 61 vs. Adamson 52
by rick olivares

The season was slipping away fast. Almost two months ago, Leo Austria declared that his Adamson Falcons were contenders for the UAAP Men’s Basketball crown.

In essence they still are. However, they had the daunting task of winning in a do-or-die situation against the Ateneo Blue Eagles that needed the win to clinch the twice-to-beat advantage.

Prior to the tussle, Adamson’s second year forward Alex Nuyles watched the UST Growling Tigers make mincemeat of the NU Bulldogs from the corridor that lead to his squad’s dugout. They lost several heartbreakers this season and as the days went by the chances of availing of the last slot to the Final Four grew dimmer. But at least they were always in the fight unlike the Bulldogs who were on the receiving end of double-digit maulings.

“Sana meron chance kami,” he said softly.

Across that corridor was Ateneo guard Eric Salamat who had yet to get dressed for his team’s upcoming match. He was engrossed in the mismatch between the Tigers and the Bulldogs. A fever prevented him from performing from full capacity in Ateneo’s 75-54 win over NU. A game where he scored zero points. Team rules dictate that if any player is under the weather, he should immediately inform Coach Norman Black so he could receive immediate treatment. Salamat kept it to himself because he wanted to help the team inch closer to the top seed. “Sana makabawi,” he said with quiet confidence.

But early on, it didn’t happen for Ateneo’s fourth year guard who had to be sat down at the 2:31 mark of the first quarter along with Nonoy Baclao and Kirk Long. The Blue Eagles were behind at 8-6 with all their points coming from Rabeh Al-Hussaini.

After an Adamson timeout, Austria, who had taken off Allan Santos from his line-up, inserted seldom-used center Arnold Basilio to make life difficult for Al-Hussaini. Basilio, like his other teammates, was tall, lanky, athletic, and could stroke it from outside. The Falcons began throwing double and triple teams on the Ateneo center hoping he’d turn them over (he did).

On the offensive, end, they ran two staggered screens from the high post where their shooters would weave through to lose their man. This forced Ateneo to switch a lot and the quick ball movement forced Ateneo’s big men to run out to the perimeter. While Jerick Cañada versus Al-Hussaini down the blocks might sound like a mismatch in favor of the Ateneo slotman, out in the perimeter it was the reverse. The Falcons guard buried several huge shots.

That also led to Ateneo being clobbered on the offensive boards 23-9. They swiped at the ball, bumped the Blue Eagle guards to get them out of their rhythm, and pretty much did what UST showed us in their second round match with Ateneo.

Basilio’s 18-footer at the 8:52 mark gave Adamson its biggest lead at 21-10. Although the Blue Eagles would close the gap to one at 29-28 after a quarter and 30-28 at the half, it sent a chill up the spine of many of the Ateneo faithful.

Ateneo cares none for the win streak it has going against Adamson (since September 18, 1997). The mission for the season can be broken down into several components: make the final four, get the twice to beat advantage, shoot for the top seed then defend the championship. That can be broken down further – win the games its needs to against the lower seeds and manage the top tier squads.

If anyone has been playing close attention to the Blue Eagles since Norman Black took over, the game plan is simple – pound it inside and get to the foul line.

Sounds easy on paper. But Ateneo knew they were up against a sound and disciplined team with a very good coach. Give the Blue Eagles props too after all they are a sound and disciplined team with their own very good coach (isn’t that an understatement).

When they took to the court for the second half, the call to arms was resounded and a better defensive effort ensued.

A Nonoy Baclao jumper and two free throws by Al-Hussaini gave Ateneo the lead 32-30 but Adamson responded with points of their own in a nip and tuck battle. “Kaya natin ‘to,” exhorted Falcons guard Leo Canuday to his teammates after Eric Camson buried a two to make it 51-47 in favor of Adamson.

Unlike the previous season where Eric Salamat fueled Ateneo’s fastbreak with his thieving and dealing, this year although his numbers are a somewhat down, he has been quietly effective while other two guards like UE’s Paul Lee or FEU’s Ryan Roose Garcia have taken the spotlight. While some surmise that he is better of as a sixth man, there is no denying that he is every bit capable as other guards in the league.

Salamat nailed a jumper from the 15-foot line after ditching Cañada to tie the match at 51-all. He followed that with a steal off Nuyles then grabbed an offense rebound and added a free throw to make it 52-51.

It was just the games turning point.

Hammered at the boards and their passing lanes closed by the Falcons, it was the Blue Eagles turn and Salamat presided over the charge.

Nonoy Baclao gamely playing on with a hand injury pulled down an offensive board and added a free throw. Salamat fished a foul from Eric Camson that sent the Falcons into penalty. The fourth year guard split his charities but the three-point lead (54-51) with 1:37 to go was at best a luxury given the way both teams shot given the spirited defensive effort of both teams.

Al-Hussaini added on more free throw (Ateneo missed four at this crucial stage) to make it 55-51.

Then Kirk Long, pretty much silent this match, stole Cañada’s cross-court pass to Canuday and fed Salamat for a lay-up. That was the backbreaker as they finished off the Falcons 61-52.

All season long, even as basketball analysts seeded Ateneo to defend the crown, Black insisted that they take things one game at a day. The Falcons have always played the Blue Eagles strong and it was anything but a bump in the road. It was an uphill climb just to grab that twice-to-beat advantage.

While Salamat seemed winded from the pace and struggle, he was just grateful to be able to help in the overall effort. As he refused a Chocnut bar from Al-Hussaini (that was given by one of the sports scribes), he answered a question about his bouncing back from an invisible outing against NU with a smile.

At the opposite side of the San Juan Arena at the Adamson dugout, there was a pained look on many of the Falcons’ faces. Nuyles washed up and dressed quickly. He managed a weak smile and before ducking out the backdoor said, “Next year na lang ulit.”

Ateneo 61 – Al-Hussaini 19, Salamat 17, Salva 9, Buenafe 7, Baclao 5, Reyes 2, Long 2, Monfort 0, Golla 0, Chua 0, Austria 0

Adamson 52 – Cañada 10, Nuyles 7, Canuday 7, Colina 6, Cabrera 6, Margallo 4, Camson 4, Basilio 4, Alvarez 4, Lozada 0, Galinato 0

He was this close... but not quite. The Chisox were swept in 3.

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen argues with the ump that the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter should have been thrown out at second. The Yankees won 10-0. Then a day later, the Chisox lost the third game of the series and were swept. Said Guillen: "Well, we came to New York and visited the new Yankee Stadium. It is a very nice ballpark, and the hotel we stayed at was also very nice. That's all I have to say about these last three days."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #172 Pride (In the Name of flag, club, money, and playing time)

(In the name of flag, club, money and playing time)
It’s too easy to say that Japeth Aguilar should have not joined the draft if all along he wanted to play for flag and country. There’s more to this than a simple press statement.
by rick olivares

Isn’t it every Filipino basketball player’s dream to make it to the Philippine Basketball Association? And isn’t it a dream and honor to represent one’s country in international competition?

Normally, the two go hand in hand but when does the dream turn into a nightmare?

There is much more than Japeth Aguilar’s statement that he’d rather play for flag and country. He once spurned the longer term Smart Gilas National Team to turn pro and suit up for the Powerade Pilipinas squad to the Jones Cup and the Fiba Asia Men’s Championship. Burger King selected him as the overall number draft choice and the club felt as if they added a crucial piece to their championship ambitions.

But somewhere in between Tianjin and opening day of the first conference of the 35th season of the PBA, the worm turned. There is speculation that the young player out of Western Kentucky was unhappy over being benched as the tournament progressed.

Whether he was being onion-skinned about it no one can be sure since he wasn’t the only one to burn a hole in his pants while seated on the bench. Forwards Arwind Santos and for a while, Gabe Norwood, rode the bench as well. The team found itself struggling to find a consistent go-to player. And any good games by James Yap and Kerby Raymundo were few and far in between.

Although the team had a chance to secure an opportunity for a berth in the zonal qualifiers, the Powerade Team faltered when the going got tough.

The team had fallen apart under the weight of its own hubris. The lessons of previous international failures were not learned. Word filtered out that National Coach Yeng Guiao did not scout the opposition and that the players kept late nights about town. They had treated an international tournament like it was being played in their own backyard and under their own rules.

Though they finished eighth – better than the San Miguel Pilipinas team that landed ninth in Tokushima two years earlier – there was a feeling that the team had been ill-prepared and poorly equipped to compete in the international arena. If that statement needed underscoring, Guiao’s post-Tianjin public assessment of the players validated that but it was perhaps better off left unsaid to a fickle public. You know the saying… what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Aguilar was said to be unhappy with the public grading. He was a rising star with the Ateneo Blue Eagles when he was made to leave for the United States to play for Division 1 school Western Kentucky presumably to help his family. But a series of injuries kept him mostly to the bench and suddenly there were missed opportunities. Perhaps being an expensive observer in Tianjin conjured images of sitting once more.

That’s the rub when the tag of “potential” is slapped on any player whether fairly or not. Either they live up to it or they don’t.

When Aguilar and his representative, veteran sports media man Ronnie Nathanielsz, met with Burger King officials last Wednesday afternoon and declared their intentions not to sign with the ballclub, its representative, the PBA’s new President Lito Alvarez, was reported to have hit the ceiling.

Burger King offered the young player a maximum contract that would also free him for national duty yet the Aguilar camp’s reticence at first perplexed the Burger King executive then enraged him. And that too is an understatement. Guaio was also said to have blown his top.

A day after, both Alvarez and Guiao expressed hope that the two parties could put aside their differences and start anew. But in a press conference last Friday morning, it was revealed that negotiations had broken down. Later in the day, Aguilar, through Nathanielsz, sent an emailed statement to the media signifying his intent to join the Gilas team.

The repercussions of this incident will resonate in the league for years to come. Its full effects can only be surmised for now but will be determined later.

One on hand, it is seen as disrespecting a 35-year old institution’s rules and the PBA will surely close ranks with the aggrieved Burger King that went from being draft day winner to WTF! Although players are not obligated to sign should they not come to terms, this is the first time that the top pick will not ink a contract with the team that drafted him. How this affects Gilas’ participation in the upcoming PBA tournament is not clear. And there is talk that Aguilar, the son of former national teamer and pro player Peter, will be banned.

There are no rules in the league that sanction players who refuse to sign. Whether this is lawful or not isn’t clear yet. But for the sake of argument, is every player who is drafted signed to a contract?

The incident isn’t new as it happened before when FEU standout Victor Pablo was said not to be crazy about suiting up for Ginebra San Miguel, the team that selected him second overall in the 1993 draft. Pablo eventually went to Shell.

Most recently, a repeat of this happened when Fil-Am Alex Cabagnot, also the second overall choice in the 2005 draft, refused to sign with Sta. Lucia. Team representative Buddy Encarnado threatened to have him banned and Cabagnot who was in Hawaii at this time, high-tailed it immediately back to the Philippines where he played two years for the Realtors before he was shipped to the Coca Cola Tigers.

In the American National Basketball Association, Duke’s Danny Ferry, another second overall pick refused to play for the woebegone Los Angeles Clippers that he saw action for a year in Italy before moving back Stateside with the Cleveland Cavaliers and lastly with the San Antonio Spurs where he won a title.

Several seasons ago, Chinese sensation Yi Jian Lian made it clear to Milwaukee Bucks representatives that they were wasting their time because he had no interest playing for them if they drafted him. Bucks officials had to fly to Hong Kong and China to court the athletic forward. NBA officials couldn’t ban Yi because they ran the risk of losing the Asian market that has been instrumental to their international growth.

And in the NBA Draft of earlier this year, Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio stated that he was not going to play for the lowly Memphis Grizzlies in spite of the presence by his compatriot, center Marc Gasol. Clearly the shabby treatment of Gasol’s older brother Pau remained fresh in their minds. Now Rubio could instead be staying put in the Iberian Peninsula where he might wear the colors of Barcelona.

Unlike the NBA where they cannot sanction a draftee who refuses to sign because of its many obligations, labor laws, and delicate undertakings, Aguilar does not have that leverage in his current situation. The league has asked SBP Executive Director Noli Eala to advise Japeth properly about the situation and to go on record in doing so. What started as a PBA problem is an association problem and one that has to be managed well because it could possibly lead to the pro loop bolting the SBP.

The Gilas team will officially enter Year Two of its program to claim an Olympic berth in 2012 in London. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Manuel V. Pangilinan, who sponsors Gilas, is also the team owner of Talk ‘N Text and a minority owner of Burger King, and thus can only stay away to avoid speculation that the PBA was hit by friendly fire.

There is still much that will happen and time can only reveal such.

But aside from the different jersey that Aguilar will be wearing now, one thing is for sure. He will no longer be playing just for national pride -- it’s for his basketball life.

More questions from email

Q: It’s nice to know of someone with such as passion for music and sports. Do you listen to anything outside rock music?
Rick: Yes, lots of genres – except for country music. Hearing that makes me violent. Hahaha. You’ve been warned. I love old stuff – I have all these Ella Fitzgerald and Gershwin Songbooks. Burt Bacharach albums. Glenn Miller. Music from a bygone era. I think it’s beautiful. There’s an innocence to it not heard in anything today. I’ve got lots of jazz stuff. On rare occasions I wasn’t at the East End catching all these alt and indie acts, I was at Washington Square listening to jazz and blues.

Q: You said you were in several bands, did you ever sing?
Rick: No. I was always and still am painfully shy about it. I can be given massive doses of confidence and I’d still sing back up but never lead. The closest I’ve done that was singing solo in church once because most of my choir mates didn’t show up so there only two of us – one to play the guitar and me to sing. God. That was embarrassing. Thankfully, hindi ako pumiyok. But I did one time during a retreat in our batch at the Salt and Light for Christ Catholic Community (at Santuario de San Antonio). Have a hard time sustaining the high notes. Hahahaha. Kaya I’d rather not sing. Maybe kaya if I do it all the time. Like I said, I’m shy about that. We didn’t live there but that’s where I was active for a while especially in the Outreach Ministry. I would be the one to arrange our songs when we’d perform during services or events. It was fun and I loved doing that. But that is something of the past. I’d rather do things from the back. Believe it or not, I’m still shy about a lot of things. I remember during our Freshman Night, I was one of the eight hosts and in my stage fright, I forgot the punchline to the joke. Gawd. Kakahiya. When I remembered I ran up to the stage and said it. Half the crowd laughed. Half booed. Hahahahaha.

After school, we’d practice at the Yamaha Studios in Greenhills or in this place along Roces Avenue were the landlady would always tell us to tone down the noise. Gawd, that old hag. Nag pa-rent ka pa ng jamming studio.

Man, those were the days! I tried wearing my hair long. Hahahaha. Isn’t that a ridiculous thought? I have pictures of myself with my hair really long. Hahahahaha. I even have this picture of me with actor Thomas Jane (of Punisher fame) and Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and I look some refugee from My Chemical Romance. Hahahaha. I’ll never post that but if you ask me I can show it to you on my laptop. Hahahaha.

My dad was President of the Philippine Association of the Record Industry for more than two decades and that sort of explains how I got into music. We’d go everywhere from clubs at five star hotels to rock joints in Olongapo. I’ll never forget when we went to this club in Gapo by the name of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Their tag line was – Where we will rock your balls off. Hahaha. Then Mayor Dick Gordon who is a good friend of my pop would show us around but he couldn’t stand the loud stuff.

So I was surrounded with bands and music folk. It was common to find members of APO Hiking Society, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Jose Mari Chan, and many others at home.

Some memorable local shows – watching the Eraserheads in UP when no one knew about them. I thought they sucked. Hahahaha. They weren’t that polished yet and sounded terrible. The first time I ever saw heard Sugar Hiccup I was hanging outside Club Dredd with Buwi Meneses of Parokya ni Edgar when I heard someone hitting those high notes in a cover version of the Sundays’ “Here’s Where the Story Ends.” That was my introduction to Melody del Mundo and instantly became a fan of Sugar Hiccup. I later caught them at 70’s Bistro with Czandro Pollack singing all of Melody’s lines and he hit those high notes better! Imagine that.

When my brother’s band won the Battle of the Bands in UP, I was ecstatic. They were known as Usok and the Red Hot Chili Peppers heavily influenced them. Seeing they play at Dredd I was a proud kuya.

At that time I was busy bringing in Parokya and Datu’s Tribe to recording contracts. I did get to play one song at Dredd when there was a jam session of a bunch of us. That’s about it. End of career.

And Tropical Depression, Color It Red, Yano, Put3ska, I loved those bands and still have all the CDs.

I never continued that life because I really did not have the attitude for it. Strict ang parents ko. Hahahaha.

Q: You like a lot of sports and write about them. What is your favorite sport?
Rick: Football. My teams are Ateneo, Liverpool, the defunct New York Cosmos, Juventus, Barcelona, and France.

Q: You must have quite a collection of sports memorabilia and items. Is this correct?
Rick: Well, if defining a collection as having loads of books, mags, jerseys, and dvds – then yes. But actual items? A signed boxing glove with the autographs of Manny Pacquiao, Brian Viloria, and Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, a football signed by all the Azkals that played in Panaad two years ago, a signed Yankees jersey of Jason Giambi, a poster with all the sigs of the 1998 Chicago Bulls, and a baseball that was fouled off by Alex Rodriguez… that’s it.

Q: Outside watching live games, what should sports fans experience? And what other sports events would you like to experience?
Rick: I think this is a tough one to answer because everyone has different tastes and favorite sports. But I have to admit that I was frightened when I went to Mexico. I was on Def Con alert at all times. We went to watch Mexican wrestling and that was an experience. Got by on pidgin Spanish. It helped that my friend Jorge is from Mexico.

An NFL tailgate party is something else. Watching European football on TV you can see how noisy, rowdy, or boisterous it can get. But when you see it live… Ateneo-La Salle cannot hold a candle to it by even a mile.

Having said that, I’m still hoping to watch Liverpool in Anfield, Barcelona at Camp Nou, Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (my friend Ish has been able to watch on several occasions and always has good seats), the Olympics – the Marathon, Men’s Basketball Finals, and track and field events. The FIFA World Cup of course. Watch Ana Ivanovic. Yeah.

Q: What in your opinion is the weakness of the sports scene here?
Rick: I think we’re too Westernized to think that our country can support a huge sports scene. Truth of the matter is we are not. It was only in the last 15 years where youth programs started to get big. We’re now big on starting them young but it cannot be seen as a career for most because there simply is no money in it.

Q: You’re not that big a fan of the PBA. Why so?
Rick: I used to say that it’s hard to follow the league because free agency, Fil-Ams and Fil-Shams, and too many SMC teams. Now… wag ko na lang sabihin. Basta. Fishy.

I do watch occasionally. Rare do I finish a game. I don’t follow it as religiously as the UAAP, NBA, EPL and other major football leagues, MLB, NHL, and NFL. I watch the V-League even more.

I’m not saying that it’s bad. It’s just not my cup of tea anymore. And that’s a bad analogy because I’m not a tea drinker. Hahahaha

I will follow the fortunes of Ginebra San Miguel this conference though.

Q: Aren’t you a die-hard Ginebra fan?
Rick: I was until the throat-slitting incident. It gradually declined and I started to root for Red Bull when they had Kerby, Rico, Davonn, Mick, Junthy etc. When management was selling its players I was disappointed then followed San Miguel. I was all set to give Siot Tanquincen props but then Game 7 of last conference happened. In the words of a veteran sports scribe, “We’ve been taken for a ride.”

Q: You’ve been writing about a lot of school teams but hardly do anything for La Salle. Do you hate them?
Rick: I do write about them from time to time. Maybe more when they change their coaching staff. But I’d rather that they keep their staff. Keep them I say. Please.

Q: Who are the best college basketball players you’ve ever seen?
Rick: That’s a lot. Hard to distill that into a small list. But from the time I’ve been watching here is a list: Allan Caidic, Jerry Codinera, Pido Jarencio, Jun Reyes, Danny Francisco, Jun Limpot, Johnny Abarrientos, Vic Pablo, I loved Bal David’s game with UST, Danny Ildefonso, Marlou Aquino (he had great games versus Limpot), Richie Ticzon, Mac Cardona, Mike Cortez, LA Tenorio, Arwind Santos, Jervy Cruz, and Chris Tiu to name a few. Dami eh. I’m sure sa list ko sobrang kulang.

Meron ka pang Bong Ravena. First year pa lang niya eh ang galing na talaga. He was pretty much unstoppable.

Q: What are some of your memorable UAAP moments?
Rick: Obviously the championships. But non-championship stuff:
- Vince Hizon scoring 44 points versus La Salle in a losing effort and Jun Limpot was asked what he thought of the Ateneo scoring machine and the DLSU center blurted out, “putangina ang galing!” That was hilarious!
- Marlou Aquino and Jun Limpot going against one another in the latter’s final year. It was a dunk fest on one another. La Salle won that if I am not mistaken.
- NU’s Cris Bolado putting back an Ateneo missed shot in Ateneo’s basket.
- UST going undefeated. 14-0. In the second round match between Ateneo and UST, Blue Eagles coach Baby Dalupan fell asleep on the bench during a Tigers blowout.
- Benjie Paras running out from the shaded area to block Romanito Roa’s three-point attempt. That said a lot about UP’s ’86 title.
- Kenneth Duremdes taking off from past the free throw line for a jam off a feed by Marlou Aquino at the post. The game was at the Blue Eagle Gym.
- The first time LA Tenorio executed that reverse corkscrew layup of his.
- Paolo Bugia dunking on Ronald Tubid, Paul Artadi, and one more UE Red Warrior. He missed the and-one.
- Pido and Allan shooting the daylights out of the Loyola Center.
- And the rumbles.
- That last UE-Ateneo game of 1986 were five of us Ateneans in the stands and on the floor at halftime with 5 La Sallians (3 of them were from the AHS). We got a standing ovation from both benches. Guidon photog Joseph Nocos snapped pictures of that. Five guys in blue and five guys in green. It was done again several times more but let's not anymore, okay?

Saturday, August 29, 2009


PASIKLABAN!! A volleyball and basketball tournament between alumni of De La Salle and Ateneo. Saturday, September 26. Doors open at 9am. Hudson Catholic HS Gymnasium, 790 Bergen Avenue Jersey City, NJ. $10.00 enter. Kids 7 and below are free. 10:00 am – Volleyball, 1:00 pm – Basketball.

This is just a few streets away from where I used to live in Jersey City (Clinton Avenue). Doing my best to help the Ateneo Alumni Northeast of which I was a member (still am a part of yahoo groups and Facebook). Will be re-joining you all soon.

Go blue!

The Fun Bunch

This shot reminds me of those pics from the Washington Redskins' Fun Bunch days under Joe Theismann.

In this shot, Robinson Cano hit his first walk-0ff home run of the season in the 10th inning with two outs.It was a three-run homer that gave the New York Yankees a 5-2 win over the slumping Chicago White Sox.

Teammates Melky Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez celebrate as Cano scoots home.

New York is now at 80-48 while Chicago 64-65.

Japeth Aguilar off to Smart Gilas


When I returned home after graduating from Western Kentucky University it was mainly because I wanted the chance to play for the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Championships and feel the pride that comes from playing for my country.

Unfortunately it didn’t go too well. But having seen first hand what it was like, how the teams from the Middle-East played and the system they followed, I felt the challenge to try again and to take them on, confident that we could surely do better the next time with hard work, dedication and the willingness to sacrifice and learn.

I am prepared to do just that. My father Peter who also played for the Northern Consolidated national team wants me to do that and so do the other members of our family.

The only way I can achieve this goal is by playing for the Smart Gilas development team under coach Rajko Toroman provided of course that they accept me since I had initially decided to enter the PBA Annual Draft.

I am confident that they will.

The experience of Tinajin, China, opened my eyes and told me that if I truly want to help my country in international basketball I will have to sacrifice a career in the pro league with all the glamour and all the perks, and join the national pool for the present time.

I will always be grateful to coach Yeng Guiao for the opportunity he gave me to play for the Philippines, Powerade Team Filipinas manager JB Baylon and PBA Commissioner Sonny Barrios for their kindness, understanding and support.

I wish to extend my deep sense of gratitude to coach Yeng, Burger King team owner Mr. Bert Lina and team manager and PBA chairman Lito Alvarez for their confidence in my ability by making me their No.1 draft pick.

I trust they will understand that my desire to play for my country means more to me and my family than anything else.

I have made the choice with my family’s blessings and encouragement.

I hope and pray that my countrymen will support me in the effort to help strengthen the Philippine Team in its continuing quest for respect and redemption in international basketball.
SGD. Japeth Aguilar

Ateneo Blue Eagles Game 11 Forty Winks

Forty Winks
Ateneo 75 vs. NU 54

by rick olivares

Enter the Sandman
If you fell asleep or were bored to death watching Ateneo whitewash National University yesterday then you should be more like the Blue Eagles who were wide awake and every bit attentive to what was going on the court.

No matter what the score.

The game is to slay the Archers, the Bulldogs, and the ghosts of Maroons past. The objective is a twice-to-beat advantage. And the ultimate goal is a championship.

Ateneo, for over a decade now has made the final four every year with remarkable consistency. The team has made the finals five times this decade and come away with two championships and they could annex one more before it’s all over.

Yet conversely, they give up a shocking loss almost every year.

There’s no need to even mention Season 70 and the misfortune that befell the team after they became a Bulldog bite victim late in the second round. The Blue Eagles got their revenge last year and in many more encounters after that. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to be lulled into another false sense of security. The coaching staff made sure that there was to be no let down.

Inside NU’s dugout, there were exhortations of ending the season with a bang. But darned if they believe they could accomplish it. The repeated beatings have taken its toll on the young squad. And perhaps too, on their longtime coach Manfred James Dandan whose voice croaked with emotion as he coaxed, cajoled, and tried to will his team to one more victory.

Except that they are up against the defending champs who are out to annex Ateneo’s sixth back-to-back title. Damned if they are going to allow anyone to scuttle their ambition.

Dazed, confused, and the dubious
After the Bulldogs’ Kokoy Hermosisima hoisted a three-pointer to give NU its only taste of the lead at 3-0, the Blue Eagles put the clamps and the dog collar on their foes.

Ateneo’s starters -- Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Eric Salamat, Kirk Long, and Jai Reyes -- showed their flummoxed foes the entire repertoire of shots from post-ups to dime drops and drives to the hoop.

On the defensive end, they wreaked havoc on NU with a defensive intensity akin to their blowout of La Salle in the second round. Even when Bulldog guard Michael Luy tried to post up a smaller Reyes, the ball never found its way inside and NU was instead whistled for a 24-second shot clock violation.

And when everyone looked up from the carnage, the score stood at 16-3 in favor of Ateneo at the end of the first quarter.

The three points were the fewest ever scored by any UAAP team in the first quarter. But don’t toot your horn just yet. The record for scoring futility in one quarter belongs incredibly… to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. The blue and white scored a measly 2 points in the 3rd quarter in a second round tiff with… NU on August 28, 2003.

Now you know the valuable lesson of never taking the Bulldogs lightly. The children of the Dark Ages know that all too well as a squawk was left in their throats when NU threw up a Hail Mary shot of their own to win by a point at the buzzer.

Yet in this game, it seemed that the hapless Bulldogs would need Divine Intervention to chalk up some points.

After more than 14 minutes of throwing up bricks, it was the seldom-used NU rookie Ronald Roy, who broke their embarrassing silence with a trey to make it 28-6 time down to 6:22 left in the second quarter.

As if things couldn’t get any worse for Dandan’s boys, 2 minutes and 17 seconds later, Ateneo’s entire starting unit trooped back onto the floor. And when they were done, the score was 42-10 at the end of the first half.

The game was practically decided after the first canto with only the final score and margin to be decided.

The lowest points scored in a half were ironically by this same Bulldogs team last August 1 when they put up only 12 markers in the first half of their first round match with Ateneo.

Twenty-six days later they once more ran into an Ateneo team that was beginning to fashion out crushing victories on its opponents. Barring another meltdown, the Blue Eagles already had this one in the bag. They held NU to only four field goals at a ridiculous 14% accuracy rate.

Wake from thy slumber
A cursory glance at individual statistics will show the numbers of practically the whole team to be down. The only ones to raise their personal stats have been guard Emman Monfort and forward Nico Salva. In many offensive categories, Ateneo’s numbers are down. But this team is a nasty defensive unit and that’s how they rule.

With the rapid improvement of Nico Salva and the reinvention of Kirk Long as a stopper, the one player everyone has been waiting for to explode is Ryan Buenafe. After the loss of Chris Tiu to graduation and eligibility, he has been tasked to bring down the ball on many an occasion and try and set up teammates for a shot. His defense, previously unheralded, has been stifling. But that’s the least of what he brings to the team. Ever since he joined the squad, he brought with him a primal urge to dominate. And it has made for an even more competitive atmosphere during practice.

During one particular one-on-one drill at Moro Lorenzo, he found himself matched up with center Vince Burke. With the drills timed by the assistant coaches, the last one to complete the task is supposed to drop and do some pushups. Buenafe called out Burke and used his forefinger to make the slitting of the throat sign. The American nodded and the drills commenced. Burke lost the little duel and had to not only kiss the floor but he had to endure Buenafe’s friendly trash talk.

Yet when Season 72 kicked off, Buenafe found himself laying a big goose egg on several occasions. On this day versus NU, he finally had that breakout game. And for the first time since he was in fourth year high school, he notched that big game – this time in blue and white -- as he compiled 23 markers, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in only 17 minutes of action!

The team’s American mentor Norman Black couldn’t be more pleased because his bench players were already finding their groove and making their presence felt on the court. With the reemergence of Monfort and Salva in the first round, he had two more weapons in Long and Buenafe to add to a team that was already bristling with firepower to a team that was hungry for more.

When Black was asked about the significance of Buenafe’s reemergence from his slumber, the Ateneo coach pointed out to his prized player’s myriad gifts. “He’s been playing defense, bringing down the ball for us, and setting up his teammates,” he underscored.

Added Jai Reyes of his teammate, “He’s got the complete package and it’s good that he scores because he will add to our options.”

Right. All the better to put them to sleep.

Ateneo 75 Buenafe 23, Al-Hussaini 15, Sumalinog 7, Reyes 6, Tiongson 5, Chua 5, Salva 3, Monfort 3, Long 3, De Chavez 3, Gonzaga 2, Salamat 0, Golla 0, Burke 0, Baclao 0, Austria 0

NU 54 Hermosisima 19, Baloran 10, Ponferrada 6, Donahue 6, Terso 5, Roy 3, Roy 3, Luy 3, Singh 2, Manito 0, Magat 0, Fabula 0, Cabaluna 0, Batac 0

Some old photos

Shooting Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski at the Manila Polo Club for the Titans exhibit sponsored by San Miguel Corporation.

With Christine Jacobs-Sandejas at her home in Ayala Alabang. Had to immerse myself in their pool to get some good shots of her for that exhibit.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sabi Na No Kicking!

Joshua Webb, what have you started? Seriously though, how can you not like someone who plays defense with their hands and feet? Photo by Raddy Mabasa.

Halikinu Radio Episode 8

We invited the three captains of the Ateneo Men's Volleyball Team: Vian Seranilla, JR Intal, and Ed Ortega and we all agree that their inclusion gave the show a different dimension. Their segment was as fun as anything that came before. The questions asked provided most insightful answers. JR being the youngest of the Intal brothers was already known to the Jai Reyes -- who did a great job as guest host -- and the Blue Crew so hindi na nagkahiyaan sa kulitan at asaran. Inviting the AMVT them to come over was a way of helping them and giving them some importance. Good luck in the Miranda Cup where they are 3-1. The next non-basketball team we invite is the Ateneo Men's Football Team (I think in two weeks).
With the Blue Crew. Mikko Abello, Mike Baldos, Jai Reyes, and Merrill Lazo. Not present from the crew was Mark Intal. Check out their line of Ateneo Blue Eagles t-shirts that are real cool. Now why in the Blue Hell am I plugging their shirts?! Bwahahahaha! I joked about naming my new tee shirt group as Get Crewed or Blue Blued. Hahahaha. Yes, I'm back in the game. Wait na lang for the designs.

It was fun having these guys on the show kasi mga loko rin mga 'to. I honestly thought the discussions were maybe one of the best on the show this year. Next week, the guests are Olsen Racela, Mico Halili, and Lia Cruz (again) -- the old hosts of Halikinu Radio. And the new gang will be back to full strength as Mhel Garrido and Martin David will be back in the groove.

Yna keeps tabs on Chuck's "You knows."

Playing the Waiting Game

Playing the Waiting Game
by rick olivares
All seemed quiet a day after Japeth Aguilar’s representatives engaged in a sort of a tug o’ war with Burger King management.

Perhaps because the crisis is being managed with care so much so that the six-foot-nine, 22-year-old No. 1 draft pick would be eventually convinced to don a Whopper jersey come the Philippine Cup of the 35th Philippine Basketball Association season in October.

“Nothing has been finalized. We will see where this goes,” said Ronnie Nathanielsz, a newspaper columnist and sports broadcaster who is said to be Aguilar’s manager.

Yeng Guiao, the Burger King head coach who wanted to win his first All-Filipino crown with Aguilar on the Whopper roster, left the decision to his team’s management.
“I will leave this to Lito Alvarez to sort out. If Japeth signs with us then we will welcome him to our team because as you know, we could use a talent like him for the PBA wars,” he said.

Alvarez is Burger King’s representative to the PBA board. He is also the 35th season league chairman.

Aguilar, represented by Nathanielsz and his father Peter, a former pro, reportedly did not sign any contracts with Burger King when his camp met with Alvarez on Wednesday afternoon in Makati. The elder Aguilar is in the US but actively participated in the negotiations through telephone.

The young center apparently was turned off with how Guiao handled him during the Fiba-Asia Championship in Tianjin, China. Aguilar was sparingly used, especially against the powerhouse teams Iran, Jordan and even Korea.

Guiao earlier reasoned out Aguilar was not ripe for the Tianjin tournament—although he has repeatedly described the former Ateneo Blue Eagle as the “next dominant big man in the PBA.”

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has been openly expressing its interest for Aguilar to join the Smart-Gilas developmental team full-time. As a result, speculations are rife he is headed toward that direction.

Note: Japeth Aguilar didn't join the Burger King team at the Scoop sa Kamayan this morning at Padre Faura.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

With Ateneo Women's Football Team's Tata Garcia

At the Ateneo-NU game today @ the Araneta Coliseum.

No. 1 pick Japeth to Burger King off?

No. 1 pick Japeth to Burger King off?
by rick olivares

JAPETH AGUILAR, the No. 1 draft pick, reportedly would not be donning a Burger King (BK) jersey after all in the coming 35th season of the Philippine Basketball Association.

The Business Mirror learned that Aguilar’s negotiations with BK management on Wednesday bogged down. Aguilar reportedly does not chart his basketball career. Ex-pro Peter, his father, and Ronnie Nathanielsz, a newspaper columnist and sports broadcaster who is said to be his manager, do the negotiating.

The six-foot-10, 22-year-old Aguilar, the Business Mirror learned further, would instead play for Smart Gilas, a developmental team being honed for the 2011 continental championship that would determine Asia’s representative to the 2012 London Olympics.

Interestingly, telecommunications tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, who funds the Smart Gilas team, is a part-owner of Burger King. He is also president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, which has the Smart Gilas in its long-term programs.

Note: Japeth has not committed to any team. There are other issues here. And no, Gilas did not meddle here. Hintayin natin bago mag-comment. Comments like "benta" are irresponsible. A player has just as much right not to sign. Corporations have dumped players mercilessly too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Let's put on a show

While watching the fans' day segment of the 2009 Summer Slam, I noticed how the WWE Superstars mingled with the people of Los Angeles as they participated in community projects and met the fans.

Why didn't they do something similar each time they were here? Yes, I know that there are time constraints but the least they can do is sign autographs and meet the fans.

When RAW came over a couple of years ago, there was a meet and greet with Lita and Edge. And it was obvious they weren't enjoying themselves. The guests waited for two hours inside a function room at Shangri-La then we were all ushered into one area for a group picture with the two unhappy and unhappy superstars. No one even got a copy of the picture as they had one official photographer.

Hearing Montell Vontavious Porter say that they get a kick out of meeting the fans makes me laugh. It's all fake. Just like pro wrestling.

Just taking time to answer some questions

There are a bunch of unanswered email with all these questions. Since I putting some stuff on hold pending approval from certain quarters, I thought I’d take the time to answer them here.

Q: I like how you put your favorite albums on the blog. Many of them I am unaware of but have since tried out. Very diverse taste in music but I think the heavy stuff are not for me. Sorry. I’d like to ask what are your 10 favorite bands.
Rick: Well, I like a lot of artists but here’s my best bet at the moment and not in order. Plus they are all still performing: U2, Versus, Reel Big Fish, Tool, Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol, British Sea Power, Dave Matthews Band, Up Dharma Down, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Of the ten, the only ones I have not seen live are U2 and Tool. The best show I’ve been to – the Cure during their Curiosa Tour concert at Randall’s Island and Interpol opened for them. Reel Big Fish at the Irving Plaza was wild. Everyone was dancing from start to finish. The Dave Matthews Band concert at Central Park was so huge. The Great Lawn was packed. It was a bitch getting home after that.

Q: Do you still buy CDs?
Rick: Yes, but not as much as I used to. I have to totally like the album before I get it. Sorry but U2’s new album is a little disappointing. Classic U2 it ain't. Classic U2 is Boy, October, and War. I was listening to them when it wasn't fashionable to listen to U2. And I still have every original US-pressed vinyl LP from Boy to the Joshua Tree.

Q: Do you download music?
Rick: Rarely. I upload my CDs to my iTunes. I have about 5,000 CDs in my collection. No pirated stuff FYI.

Q: You seem to infuse a lot of your musical influences in your writing. Are you a frustrated musician?
Rick: No. I used to play in bands from grade school to college. In college I stopped after a bit. In high school, we jammed at least once a week. Played a few gigs and parties. That’s it. I played bass guitar and percussion. I wanted to take it up more seriously while in the United States but work got in the way. Hahahaha. And I didn’t think I could live out in a van. Maarte ako. Hahahahaha. I guess, I didn’t have the right attitude for it.

Q: Did you read JK Rowling’s seven-book Harry Potter series?
Rick: Yes. And it’s not a kid’s book by any chance.

Q: How many books do you buy in a year?
Rick: At least 12. One of the coolest things is friends and acquaintances coming over and either lending me some books or giving them. I think I have a backlog of three dozen books that I have not read.

Q: What magazines do you read regularly?
Rick: World Soccer and Time are the only ones I read regularly now. Rolling Stone and Rogue once in a while.

Q: Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
Rick: Man that is a tough one. Cory Aquino, Dwyane Wade (rookie year NBA Store in NYC), and Tobey Maguire (filming of Spider-Man 2). It has to be Jennifer Lopez (Marriot Hotel). That’s right. Hahahaha. Seriously. That is a funny funny story. I thought it would get me on Page Six of the New York Post.

Q: And the most infamous?
Rick: Ah… thieving politicians. God, I cannot stand them! If I mention them here they might have me killed. Hahahaha. Seriously…. Joey “Pepe” Smith? Bwahahaha. Nah… he’s a legend. Probably that NPA Alex Boncayao Brigade guy. Erap when he was President. I almost did not shake his hand.

Q: What is the craziest thing you’ve done that’s sports-related?
Rick: Go to Mexico to watch luchadore wrestling. Ride shotgun in a drag race at Ortigas Avenue one time. I was scared shitless. Does paying a lot of money for a Juventus-AC Milan match count? That set me back $500.

Q: Who in your mind is a “babe?” Will you ever put pictures of sexy babes on your blog?
Rick: Jessica Alba is a babe. So is Jessica Biehl. When I was in advertising, I used to tape “Reserved for Jennifer Connelly” at the back of my chair. Ah... we'll see about babes. Hahahaha.

Q: Who is your all-time all-time celebrity crush?
Rick: Moira Kelly. Ay caramba! How can you not fall for her in The Cutting Edge and With Honors?! I have almost all her movies including the Lion King stuff and the first season of The West Wing. And she’s Catholic too.

Q: What was your weirdest date ever?
Rick: I took a then unknown porn star as my date to an Ateneo East Coast reunion. No one knew about it. Hahahaha. But she was hot! I met her at a strip bar in New York. Hahahahahaha.

Q: Are you seeing anyone?
Rick: This is an odd question! Not at the moment. Hahahaha. But I do like someone but nothing muna. Hahahahaha.

Q: What is the one thing that you tried out for but was unsuccessful?
Rick: The Apprentice. FOX News. For the former, the waiting line was way way kilometric. I didn’t stand a chance. FOX, well, I’ve not given up hope. Hahahaha.

Q: Not many media people go work for TV. How does it feel to be coming out every so often?
Rick: Ah wait a minute. Hindi naman. There are lots of other media people who come out a lot. Quinito Henson na lang. Sev Sarmenta. Ronnie Nathanliesz and a lot more. Siguro sa new wave of writers yes. But my colleagues Chris Soler, Mike Abasolo, and Sid Ventura come out more. Sila yung mga star. I’m just a punk ass new jack kid on the block. I’m a long way before I can come close. But it’s fun. My first ever was ages ago… a children’s show. Then it was on John Lesaca’s Show where I came out twice. Hahahaha. I won’t tell you why. But I have a tape of that. I made a few cameo appearances on a couple of commercials. Two for PLDT. One for Jardine. And one for an instant noodles product that came out in Taiwan. Hahahahaha. For print… Bic ballpen. Hahaha. I have nice penmanship daw. Hahahaha. I have copies of everything. Hahahaha.

By far my fave is doing that Champions League match of JRU and Mapua and interviewing politicians and celebrities for Solar Sports during Manny Pacquiao’s third match with Erik Morales.

Q: Is your work on Halikinu Radio your first?
Rick: Well, I once subbed for my cousin Donald who was a jock for a while at KISS-FM (when they played jazz) for an hour while he went out for dinner with a chick. Hahahahaha. Donald has been living in NYC for what 13 years now?

I made a few guest appearances as an analyst on NBA Radio. That was hosted by good friends Martin David and Magoo Marjon and my classmate Ralph Roy (bro of rock legend Karl Roy). Also on WLS to promote Parokya Ni Edgar and Datu's Tribe. On 99.5RT during its heyday. Claimed a prize and got interviewed by a damn jock who was reading porn inside the DJ's booth.

Smart Gilas buckles down for work

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas remains confident that the Philippines has a shot of earning the sole remaining berth up for grabs in the Asian zone for the 2012 London Olympics.

“One thing that gives me a lot of hope is the fact that we have a program. We have an honest to goodness program to back up our desire to win in 2011,” said SBP Executive Director Noli Eala with a lot of conviction. “Not only do we have a program – a three-year plan with the right players and the right mindset for this sacred mission – but we also have a proven and internationally respected coach who knows what it takes to win in the international arena and who has got the experience and credentials to show for it.”

Eala was referring to Serbian Coach Rajko Toroman who masterminded Iran’s rise to power in Asian basketball before becoming coach of the Smart Gilas team. Toroman nearly joined the Memphis Grizzlies as an assistant coach but decided to come to the Philippines instead.

The 54-year old Serb however preached caution and much patience. “It’s not going to be easy. In the beginning it may be painful. We will lose some games and we may go through difficult situations. But in the end, our goal is 2011 and we will do everything to put things together.”

He related Iran’s similar journey where they lost 25 out of 35 matches. But their international exposure and constant training together paid off as they won the FIBA Asia Championship in 2007 and made it to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And even after he has left, the program is still in place as Iran won its second straight FIBA Asia title by beating host China convincingly 70-52.”

“I think the biggest thing that gave me hope was when Iran beat China in their homecourt. If you look at Iran, they are no bigger than us, except maybe for Hamed (Hadadi who is 7’3”) who’s really the focal point. But everyone else I guess, is comparable to us. But it’s not so much the look, the height and the size of Iran that impresses me, but it’s their look of confidence and the look that they are having fun as a team…. when you look at them, it’s like they’ve been living together the past 20 years.

“With all of these ingredients together, we are hopeful, we are optimistic that we have a program that is in place,” Eala summed up of one of the SBP’s main objectives which is to restore the Philippines as an Asian basketball power. “Now our work continues.”

Chester Jarrel Giles, the 6'11" former Los Angeles Laker, will be arriving on September 1 to join the Smart Gilas team that will play in the upcoming PBA First Conference. Many of the team's collegiate players who have been unable to join the national team's training because of their current responsibilities in their leagues will be on tap for the PBA stint.

Initially, Smart Gilas' participation in the PBA was for exposure. But the path has been cleared for their matches to have full bearing meaning they can compete for the championship if they do qualify.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mad Dogs Mad Rick

I'm doing a story on the Mad Dog Motorcycle Club for a future issue of Business Mirror. I've always been fascinated by big bikes and all that biker culture. To own a Harley Davidson, man, that is something I hope I can eventually say, I got it done, mate.

I had the first of a few meetings to iron out the story we want to do. I will be joining them on a future ride and other functions to tell that ultimate biker story so I'd say that by the time I type it out on my laptop, it will be either late September or mid-October. I can't say if it's one column or a two or three-part series. We'll see where the whole experience takes me but I am stoked for this.

They gave me a Mad Dog support shirt that I will wear this Thursday on Halikinu Radio (was supposed to wear my Twisted Red Cross shirt). Yeah!

My playlist for the day: Vice by Razorlight * Monica's Light by The Railway Children * KC Accidental by Broken Social Scene * High by The Cure * Wonderwall by Ryan Adams * Your Hand In Mine by Explosions in the Sky * Landslide by Fleetwood Mac * The Look of Love (Part IV) by ABC * Love In A Vacuum by 'Til Tuesday * Space Age Love Song by Abra Moore * City of the Dead by The Clash * Kissing the Lipless by The Shins * Svenf-g-englar by Sigur Ros * Dear Prudence by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Philippine Daily Inquirer Sportswriting Seminar

I truly enjoy giving talks, lectures, and seminars. Last year, I did three on social entrepreneurship at San Beda College, the University of Santo Tomas, and Mindanao State University. Then I did a creative writing seminar for the Comm Dept. of Ateneo and another for alternative class day for students of the Ateneo Grade School and LSGH. Am looking forward to next week's seminar with the Guidon. Some are bugging me to teach on a part-time basis. We'll see this second sem.
Sitting L-R: Ernie Sarmiento, Chito de la Vega, and me.

Chito de la Vega opens the seminar. He used to cover the PBA in the late 80's to late 90's.

Going back to my roots. Before I plunged into advertising, I wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer where I did feature stories on bands, young businessmen, comic books, and album reviews. I also did shopping tips one time! I also ghost wrote stuff for the Elan section. Isn't that hilarious! Bwahahaha. I did this for about a year as I was starting my career as a copywriter for Taipan-Bozell. Eventually, advertising became so time consuming I had to let that burgeoning writing career go. I didn't make money off it anyways. It was cool seeing my stuff in the newspaper though. But I guess watching one's commercials on TV or in the theaters was way more tops.

The last time I was in the PDI offices was to pick up a check and that was a long time ago. Its obviously changed somewhat. Chito de la Vega and Dennis Eroa showed me around the editorial offices including their 'war room' where they dissect their own paper for flaws and good stuff. They also take a look at every other broadsheet, the Business Mirror included. Hahaha. It's so nice to know that the Inquirer and Philippine Star have been keeping tabs on me. It's so cool and flattering. Thanks.

And it was even more flattering to be invited to be the opening speaker in the two-day seminar considering I am the only non-PDI speaker.

I took the morning session today while photog legend Ernie Sarmiento took the afternoon class. The audience participation was really good. Their insights and questions showed that we've got some very good young talent here.

We had 22 students (all from their school newspapers) in attendance -- Far Eastern University, San Beda College, Perpetual Help, Adamson University, Jose Rizal University, University of the East, College of Saint Benilde, De La Salle University, and the University of Santo Tomas. I had a blast doing this and look forward to doing this again. I think the UST paper, The Varsitarian, expressed interest in asking me to do a similar one for them. I am so honored. Grabe. And thanks to the CSB guys for being huge fans of Bleachers' Brew.

Thanks to PDI's Chito and Dennis for the invite. Muchos gracias. And thanks to the students for giving me copies of their school papers. I look forward to reading them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More shots from Episode 7 of Halikinu Radio

BBB Coach and Show Executive Producer Ralph Aligada makes hirit.
"Hey, Melo Afuang... watch out for Rabeh," I said. Rabs watched from the bench at first before establishing himself underneath during that searing fourth quarter run where he strung up nine straight points to break the backs of UST (Kirk Long of course had a lot to do with that).

Portia is starry-eyed. Wonder why. Hahahaha.

Lia Cruz joins the crew for the show and makes a point.

Kamae De Jesus made it on time (she was stuck in traffic) for the tail-end of the show. What a cool girl. Right, Mic?
We invited the Ateneo Men's Volleyball team -- Ed Ortega, JR Intal (younger bro of JC and Mark), and Vian Seranilla to guest this Thursday. They are 3-1 in the Miranda Cup.

Take that, Red Sox!

Five home runs against Josh Beckett (Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui had 2, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez). The New York Yankees took the rubber match of their three game series at Fenway 8-4. The win meant a lot more.

CC Sabathia, became the first pitcher in MLB this season to get 15 wins (15-7). They now won 10 of 11 series after the All-Star break. They have the best record in baseball at (78-46) and are 7 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox for the AL East title.

Derek Jeter led off the game with homer when he sent Beckett's first pitch to the stands. The Elias Sports Bureau says that he is now tied with Alfonso Soriano with 21 on NY's all-time lead-off list. Rickey Henderson remains tops with 24.

Now they go home back to the Empire State for their own homestand.

Ateneo Blue Eagles Game 10 Long Shot

Long Shot
Ateneo 80 vs. UST 70
words by rick pic by raddy game by kirk

Kramer vs. Kramer
The Thomasians have a term for it… “Na-Kramer” in reference to Doug Kramer’s game winning lay-up in Game 1 of the UAAP Finals of Season 69. The phrase entered school lore when Kirk Long, then a rookie, hit a fade away jump shot over Jervy Cruz to give Ateneo a 72-71 victory in the Blue Eagles’ 10th match of Season 70.

That was pretty much Long’s best game as he stayed mostly invisible the following year as his shooting touch and confidence evaporated. And with that went his starting slot that was given to Ryan Buenafe. Team followers wondered what the problem could be since Long generally did well during practice. Had they asked the youngster out of Faith Academy in Antipolo, he would have begged them for an answer as well.

After one victory en route to the Blue Eagles’ Season 71 title, the Long family had dinner at the nearby Taco Bell in Gateway Mall. Kirk seemed forlorn and had a hard time digesting the food in front of him. He didn’t play well and was benched in the second half. His father, Jeff, sat beside him with a look of concern on his brow but he patiently waited for his son to open up. “I don’t know, dad,” finally spoke the son in soft and hushed tones as the rest of the family and their friends turned away. “I don’t feel confident when I’m out there.”

The two exchanged words for a few more minutes before the father put his hand on his son’s shoulder and offered words of encouragement, “Don’t give up, son. Keep working hard. Your time will come.”

Forth and Long
With Ateneo on top 71-66, the Tigers forced a near turnover and the Blue Eagles had to inbound the ball from close to center court. There were six seconds left on the shot clock when Jai Reyes inbounded the ball to Long who wheeled around dribbled once and launched a trey from more than 30 feet out and over the outstretched arms of Tiger guard Jeric Fortuna.

It was all net.

Long raised his two arms in an upright form, the sign for “touchdown” in American football. He had hit his eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth points of the match for a 74-66 Ateneo lead with 56.3 ticks left. The eight-point advantage was Ateneo’s largest of the match and in a closely fought match it was a precious lead. Especially against the highest scoring team in the league.

He would add one more free throw for his game and career high 21 points where he hit 5 of 6 treys and shot 2-2 from the field. He made 2 of 4 free throws while adding 5 boards, 4 assists, and 1 steal in a most excellent 31 minutes of action.

And in the face of the incredible shooting display by Dylan Ababou, Khasim Mirza, and Allein Maliksi, he kept the Blue Eagles in the game.

Ateneo’s game plan was simple – pound it inside once more. The Tigers though long and athletic lack size to defend the interior; a glaring deficiency that saw them give up an average of 36.3 points that is third worst behind NU and surprisingly, UE.

It seemed like a good idea except that UST refused to cooperate as they double-teamed Rabeh Al-Hussaini and contested everyone’s shot. And for the second time this year, UST’s under-sized forward-center Melo Afuang got the goat of Al-Hussaini by baiting him to commit his second foul that sent him to the bench. He would miss the entire second quarter and large tracts of the third.

Incredibly, the Blue Eagles shot 51.9% but were down 39-36 at the half. They had battled UST to a draw on the boards 21 each but the Tigers led because they corralled 4 more offensive rebounds and forced Ateneo into 6 more turnovers.

The first five
In the two teams first meeting, it took the second unit to get the Blue Eagle juggernaut going. But the Tigers prepared well for Ateneo’s bench mob this time around as they disrupted Buenafe’s dribble when he ducked inside, they put a taller man on Emman Monfort who would not score a point this day, and they outscored their counterparts 21-17.

But the starters stood toe-to-toe in an incandescent third quarter where Jai Reyes hit two triples, Nonoy Baclao scored inside twice, and Eric Salamat added a free throw.

And there was Long who also rifled in a pair of trifectas with one that tied the match at 58-all before Mirza scooted in for a fastbreak lay-up to give UST the lead at the end of the third.

By the time Al-Hussaini was reinserted at the start of the fourth, they finally got to execute their game plan. He scored inside on Chris Camus to finally wrest the lead for good at 63-62 and added seven more.

Then Long’s three-ball put the fight out of the Tigers and helped give Ateneo its sixth consecutive victory over their España rivals to barge into the Final Four. And for the second consecutive match, the starters played huge as four of them pumped in double figures.

The Three-Year Itch
Long had played well this year, his third year in the league, while reinventing himself as a defensive specialist and occasionally adding a basket or two. He cut down on his turnovers and had become a valuable part of the rotation. His confidence grew with every outing and inside the media room, a gleeful Norman Black teased him, “You’re first time in here?”

“Yeah…” beamed the American looking somewhat sheepish with all the cameras, tape recorders, and microphones thrust in his face.

“Well, I’ve been waiting for this for the last three years. I hope to see you here many more times.” challenged Black.

Then Long, fielded the first of many questions that post-game, “I’m from Antipolo City and my family moved here in 1991. I studied at Faith Academy and am just happy to be able to help my team…”

Outside the dugout in an ambush interview with UST Coach Pido Jarencio about Long’s game, he seemed puzzled about the Kramer reference. “Ang alam ko ay pinatay kami ni Long. Yung long shot niyang tres.”

Ateneo 80Long 21, Al-Hussaini 14, Salva 11, Reyes 11, Baclao 10, Salamat 7, Austria 5, Golla 1, Tiongson 0, Monfort 0, De Chavez 0, Chua 0, Buenafe 0

UST 70Ababou 19, Mirza 18, Malikisi 11, Camus 8, Teng 4, Aytona 3, Afuang 3, Fortuna 2, Bautista 2, Ungria 0, Green 0

Ateneo game shots by Nonoy Lacza

Great D by Jai Reyes here. Chris Camus is a pal so no bashing. Good luck to the Tigers, bro.

Those Scalp-hunting Red Warriors

Those Scalp-hunting Red Warriors
by rick olivares

After the FEU-UE match in the first round where the Tamaraws ran up an 18-point lead before a searing Red Warriors rally fell short, Aldrech Ramos, JR Cawaling, and Ryan Garcia sat before the assembled media and showed off long scratch marks on either forearm. Evidence they said of the roughhousing tactics by UE as they literally clawed back into the game. Point guard Mark Barroca had telltale scratches too but had chosen to retreat to the locker room instead.

There was no love lost between the two schools that at one time traded UAAP basketball titles between themselves. FEU has won six in the last two decades and are in a three-way tie with UST and UE for the most league crowns with 19 apiece and the Tams have been installed as heavy favorites to take the tie-breaker.

Elmer Espiritu, UE’s forward-center with the maddest hops since Adamson’s Kenneth Duremdes was doing his own bit of skywalking along San Marcelino Avenue, said to his team before game time, “Kaya naman pala natin sila, eh, bakit pa tayo magpapatambak sa kanila?”

In their first round match-up, FEU center Reil Cervantes and UE’s Pari Llagas were both tossed from the match (albeit unfairly) for trading sweet nothings to one another. It merited a one-game suspension that told heavily on UE’s next assignment that was league-leading Ateneo. As in their earlier game with FEU, they went down 18 points to the Blue Eagles before their rally ran out of time.

“I believe in my team,” said UE Coach Lawrence Tiongson without batting an eyelash. “We will play whoever. If we make the Final Four we will just have to beat whoever twice.”

But first they had a score to settle with the Tamaraws.

From the opening tip, UE took it straight at the heart of FEU’s defense. Rudy Lingganay and Paul Zamar drove inside. Llagas posted up. And Espiritu when he wasn’t hanging in the stratosphere waiting for gravity to do its job on his man, was knocking down nasty fadeaway jumpers and skying for death-defying slams. If that wasn’t enough for FEU, there was still the matter of Paul Lee.

Lee is perhaps the top-two guard in the league now. Having bulked up and raised the level of his game, He is no longer prone to silly errors or having the ball pilfered from his hands.

At the end of the first round, he was second in the Red Warriors squad in scoring with 13.1 (behind Llagas’ 14.9) and 5.4 assists. With UE’s bigs doing heavy damage inside, Lee was lurking in the perimeter and knocking down treys. His alley-oop to Espiritu for a slam had the Araneta Coliseum rocking.

In the second half, Espiritu picked up a loose ball and flushed it down once more but not before slapping his palm on the fiberglass window.

The Tamaraws were flustered and unable to mount a serious attack. They came close in the final minutes as they strung up eight straight points, but UE not only held on, they attacked once more and got a few stops highlighted by bigtime rejections by Espiritu on Paul Sanga and McJan Vinluan.

UE had their revenge; a 87-72 win to grab solo third at 6-4 while FEU fell to 8-2. It was a bigger upset than their opening day whipping of De La Salle. They shot a blistering 60% in the first half, a percentage that leveled off at 54% by game’s end. It typified their determination to take charge of their destiny and not let anyone’s else’s standings get in the way. “We have a mission,” added Tiongson. “We want to show everyone we belong and that we’re ready to compete for the title. Take it how you want it – a warning or a challenge.”

After the game, Llagas and Espiritu couldn’t wait to get back to the dugout for their celebration. The win pumped life into their Final Four aspirations of which five teams are disputing the last two seats to the play-offs' bus. When asked why the rush, Espiritu, smiled and said, “Gutom na kami. Kainan na.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grab that Rebound

The cover to our second issue. This one totally rocks! Al Ramos, Nonoy Baclao, RJ Jazul, and James Sena on the cover? Whoa! Dammit. I love this.

I contributed the following stuff:
The Renaissance Dogs (NU)
Tamaraw Drive (How FEU picked itself up after 2006)
Jan Colina of Adamson
Marvin Hayes of JRU
Mark Barroca and his killer crossover
My column From the Parking Lot

My fellow Rebounders: Mike Abasolo, Chris Soler, Sid Ventura, Trish Roque, Mia Domingo, Martin David, Trish Roque, Reuben Terrado, Juane Escudero, Bob Guerrero, Raddy Mabasa, Mike Yu, Pia Boren, Yuklid, and Chuck B.

The second ish will be out by the time of the Cheerdance competition.

Updated UAAP 2nd Round Sked

Saturday, August 29, 2009
San Juan Arena
2PM UP vs. FEU

Sunday, August 30, 2009
San Juan Arena
2PM UST vs. NU
4PM ADMU vs. AdU

Thursday, September 3, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
2PM UE vs. UP

Saturday, September 5, 2009
San Juan Arena
2PM NU vs. UE

Sunday, September 6, 2009
San Juan Arena
2PM AdU vs. UST

Thursday, September 10, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
4PM UE vs. UST

Saturday, September 12, 2009
Araneta Coliseum
2PM AdU vs. UP

Sunday, September 13, 2009
Araneta Coliseum Cheering Competition

Thursday, September 17, 2009
Araneta Coliseum Playoffs

Sunday, September 20, 2009
Araneta Coliseum Final Four

Thursday, September 24, 2009
Araneta Coliseum Final Four if necessary

Sunday, September 27, 2009 Finals
Araneta Coliseum

Thursday, October, 1, 2009 Finals
Araneta Coliseum

Sunday, October, 4, 2009 Finals
Araneta Coliseum

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Down there

Down There
My commentary on the day's tough results for two teams

I’ve been inside NU’s locker room so many times – pre-game, halftime, and post-game –that it’s really a painful exercise. If I feel that way then how much worse could it be for Manny Dandan who will surely be under the gun with all these losses?

They all know that not much is expected from them this year but still… all those losses can drive one batty.

Mervin Baloran and Kokoy Hermosisima are a couple of steps away from becoming their go-to scorers but they have to learn to let the game come to them and play a lot more smarter if they want to be elite ballers. Baloran, the team captain, makes better decisions but he needs to bulk up and work on his mid-range game to become even more effective. He needs to scatter his points across all the quarters because it will ease the load on the others. When the points aren’t coming, Hermosisima and Ajeet Singh fire at will from the outside which is bad because at times they don’t have a rebounder in place.

Hermosisima should stop shooting at every turn because when he misses those shots, they kill the team. Not only does it not involve the team but also when he misses, the opponents run with the ball catching them flat-footed on transition.

Any notions that Jewel Ponferrada could be an elite player for NU have surely evaporated now. He performed well last year playing alongside Edwin Asoro. He cleaned up those errant shots that escaped Asoro and was the beneficiary of his teammate’s double teams. If this team had a solid power forward then he would ease Ponferrada’s load. He’s had zero dunks this year. Zero.

The Bulldogs should do a better job of taking it strong to the hole. Their drop passes aren’t just happening.

They are a young team without a doubt but they should have better discipline when it comes to running the offense. And that should be on the point guards Michael Luy and Joseph Terso. If there’s a little more discipline to their game then that will lessen their turnovers.

But they are a young team that is only now learning to win the right way with the proper resources. You know the saying about nowhere to go but up. And that’s something new about these Bulldogs.

A lot of people are asking me if the De La Salle Green Archers are really a lousy team this season.

No, they are not. They are underperforming for a variety of reasons. But look at the material they have for years to come!

Some have said that the holdovers from last year aren’t the leader types but role players. Maybe so. But how much of that is because of the rift between the newbies and the veterans? The veterans even have a term for the newbies – “sila.” Franz Pumaren must have a reason for making Hyram Bagatsing the team captain but he is one of the most inconsistent players on the squad. He plays good one game then doesn’t do well in the next.

Joshua Webb? Well, he might not be on every other team’s Christmas List but I am damn sure that every other team would love to have him on board. A leader he isn’t. At least until he decides to stop playing heir to their long line of assholes in tank tops like Cardona, Yeo, Araña, and Maierhofer. Then again, their antics and rage fueled their championship drive. So I guess all this tough play that Pumaren preaches really works and is a key component to their game.

How important is the role of the captain?

I remember DLSU’s football team of two years ago. They were kicking everyone’s butts in the pre-UAAP tourney but once the football season began the team had all sorts of problems when their captain started throwing his weight around. He immediately lost the respect of his teammates and it told heavily on their play. It sent the Green Booters on a tailspin that they never recovered from.

Back to their basketball team, I am not saying Bagatsing is not capable. I wouldn’t even know their dynamics, but from what has been told to me, the vets feel that the rooks are getting too much props and have poor work ethics. “Star” kasi from their previous squads. But Bagatsing tends to ignore some of the chemistry problems they have. Whether their coaching staff is aware of this I have no idea.

Can’t say I sympathize though as I’m hoping that we continue to stick it to them. Every team has to eat some humble pie before they become great.

I find it funny that (based on what my friends from DLSU tell me) that now there are calls for Franz to be replaced. Is this for real?

If that’s true… he should have been sacked after 2005 but since he wasn’t... napaka-ingrata naman ng mga ito. After all those titles you turned a blind eye and now the team is struggling ayan na kayo. Ruining his final year? Speculation aside that it is his last tapos na ba talaga? Ahem… now the finger pointing (what’s with all these fingers from their school?) begins.

What I’ve realized is how their rabid crowd is much like Ateneo’s – quick to blame and quick to conveniently forget things when they are winning.

Some say that this team needs some homegrown pride.


For as long as I’ve seen them play pre-UAAP and when they joined the league, they didn’t have too many homegrown players. Homegrown pride lends to the never-say-die attitude but it is not a pre-requisite. It is in fact a goddam myth.

If that held true then how do you explain UE, FEU, and UST winning all those titles? How about San Sebastian? Don’t tell me that Ateneo’s 2008 win had homegrown written all over it? Only those sanctimonious snobs from the pre-coed Ateneo love to trumpet that.

College ball has always been different from high school ball. The competition has always been stiffer and several levels higher. High school teams generally get from within their ranks rather than recruit. There isn’t anything wrong with getting players from all over the archipelago not to mention abroad.

La Salle’s problem is no different from NU’s – they lack experience and cohesion playing together. The cracks showed in the summer leagues and it got bigger once the UAAP kicked in. I think Pumaren has tried several starting units this season and that is a clear sign that this team isn’t made yet. I thought they'd get their act together and in fact pegged them to make the Final Four (of course the season isn't over for them). That says a lot about their team and their coach's chops. Unfortunately, it just isn't there... yet.

They don't have that deadeye shooter in the mold of Ren Ren Ritualo and Jayvee Casio who made life easier for their big men. I don't think Peejay Barua or James Mangahas will ever be mistaken for those two. And that is a huge part of the problem. The missing dagger from the outside to open up the lane for their bigs and slashers.

They’ve been dominating for so long that people aren’t used to seeing them down there. Note to hoop junkies: take a long and hard look at the Duke Blue Devils. Not everyone stays on top forever. Note to sports fans: even the New York Yankees had their play-off streak snapped. They made the American League playoffs from 1995-2007. They didn’t make it last year but look how they’ve rebounded this year (I know the season is a long ways from being done).

It was La Salle that ratcheted up the recruitment when they entered the league. In an effort to become a sports power, they pulled all the stops to become champs and they did. It drove other teams to compete and while the level of competition went up so did the forms of one upsmanship both legal and illegal. Their days of dominance over? Not really but they will find it harder now that everyone has seen the benefits of a strong and winning program.

But they will be back and they will pay back every team in kind. And everyone knows that. Such is the story of sports that is filled with drama and emotion.

I think they would love to keep the Final Four streak going – and who wouldn’t? Right now they still have a chance but perhaps for the first time in their UAAP tenure, they are also dependent on the fortunes of other teams. That's tough and as Pumaren put it earlier in the tournament – there’s a first time for everything.